Evgeni Plushenko

Yevgeny Plushenko named to Russia Olympic Team; figure skating roster

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Yevgeny Plushenko headlines a strong Russian figure skating team that looks to be the favorite for gold in the new Olympic team event.

Plushenko was named to his fourth Olympic Team, one day after performing in front of Russian officials in a test skate to determine if he would be the nation’s lone men’s singles skater.

Plushenko won Olympic silver in 2002, gold in 2006 and silver in 2010. He’s trying to become the second skater to win four Olympic singles medals, joining Swede Gillis Grafstrom, who won gold in 1920, 1924 and 1928 and silver in 1932.

Canada’s Patrick Chan and Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu are seen as the top men, but the rest of the field has been up and down over the past season.

The Russian women are Yuliya Lipnitskaya, 15, and Adelina Sotnikova, 17, who went one-two at the European Championships last week. Lipnitskaya is seen as at least the favorite for bronze in Sochi, and she could enter the picture for gold with Yuna Kim and Mao Asada.

Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov lead three pairs teams. They are the reigning world and European champions but were beaten by German rivals Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy at the Grand Prix Final in December.

The other pairs teams are Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov and Ksenia Stolbova and Fyodor Klimov.

Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev are the top Russian ice dance couple and European champions. Ice dance gold is expected to come down to American world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White and Canadian Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

The other ice dance couples are Yelena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov and Viktoria Sinitsina and Ruslan Zhiganshin.

No other country can boast medal threats across all four figure skating disciplines, which bodes well for Russia’s chances in the team event that begins the day before the Opening Ceremony.

Ashley Wagner changes long program

Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan remembers slain Colorado officer, a childhood friend

Nancy Kerrigan
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Former figure skating champion Nancy Kerrigan remembers the Colorado police officer who was killed in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic as loyal, caring and a true friend.

She told media outlets that Garrett Swasey was “one of my best friends” as they grew up together practicing figure skating in Melrose, Massachusetts. Before he became a police officer, Swasey was a junior national couples ice dancing champion.

An emotional Kerrigan says she wasn’t surprised he took a career path where he helped others first. She says he always had fun and did everything with a smile.

Swasey’s father has told the Boston Globe that his son moved to Colorado in the 1980s to pursue competitive figure skating and became an officer six years ago.

MORE: Hanyu, Miyahara into Grand Prix final with wins at NHK Trophy

Kobe Bryant announces retirement but remains in contention for Rio team

Kobe Bryant
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Veteran basketball player and 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Kobe Bryant has announced he will retire from professional basketball after the end of this season. However, ESPN reported that the chairman of USA Basketball, Jerry Colangelo, said that Bryant “remains in contention for Team USA spot for Rio 2016.”

In the form of a poem titled “Dear Basketball” on the Player’s Tribune, Bryant wrote:

This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

Bryant played on the U.S. national team from 2007 to 2012. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics he scored 20 points in the gold medal game to win gold over Spain. He helped the U.S. men to gold again in 2012, then said that it would be his last Olympics.

But he’s changed his tune in recent months. Bryant told the Associated Press in November that he’d like a shot at another Olympics.

“I would like to play,” Bryant said. “I think it’d be awesome. A beautiful experience.”

If he were selected and won again, Bryant, LeBron James, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony would become the first U.S. male basketball players to win three gold Olympic medals.

In the AP interview Bryant spoke glowingly of his Olympic teammates. “It would mean the world to me to be around those guys,” he said. “I think to be able to have a chance to continue the relationship that I already have with most of those guys, talking and just kind of being around each other and understanding that this is it, it’s just us being together, that would be fun.”

He also said he believes he’d be an asset to the team, stating, “I feel like I can add value from a leadership perspective and a defensive perspective. I can still move extremely well defensively.”

Bryant’s age will likely be a concern, as his 38th birthday is just two days after the gold-medal game on August 21st, 2016.

Colangelo said that they will be looking at “all of our players” this season, and Bryant’s retirement announcement “doesn’t have any bearing” on whether he’d be selected for the 2016 Olympic team.

The 12 player team will be selected in June 2016.

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